September 25, 2015 § 19 Comments
The entire German national Volkswagen team was caught doping earlier this week, but unlike their cycling compatriots, rather than blaming it on a vanishing twin or a tainted supplement, they confessed to having intentionally doped their diesel cages to evade emissions regulations in the U.S. and in other nations, including Germany. Team leader Martin Winterkorn resigned today, taking full responsibility for cheating.
Unlike his Gerolsteiner compatriots, rather than disbanding the team and handing out two-year bans, Team Volkswagen will continue operations after pledging a “completely transparent investigation” and “full cooperation with the authorities.” These are the same authorities they have systematically lied to and cheated since 2009.
If you haven’t already heard, Team VW tested positive for Chinese computer coding that allowed their environmentally friendly, clean running diesels to spew 40 times more filth into the air than the law allows. Suckers, I mean consumers, who purchased these enviro-friendly cages paid a premium and now will be selling at a loss. In addition to fraud, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, civil fraud, and possibly violations of the Rees-Levering Act, Team Clean Diesel will certainly face class action litigation, federal and state fines, and possible criminal charges as well.
Skeptics believe that other cage manufacturers will soon be caught up in the cage doping scandal, particularly those who make diesel engines.
Contrast the high crimes and misdemeanors of the cage industry and its lethal ignition lock flaws, transmissions that suddenly shift into reverse, “unsafe at any speed” Corvairs, exploding Pintos, pickups with exploding gas tanks, defective tires, and now, intentional pollution of the air, with the bicycle industry.
Pretty quick comparison.
I hope these dopers get what’s coming to them.
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September 23, 2015 § 22 Comments
The big off-season news this year is that SPY Optic has lost its charismatic and cycling-centric CEO, Michael Marckx. It’s big news mostly because of the void that Michael’s departure will create in the local bike racing scene.
The most obvious result has been the merger between the former SPY Elite Cycling Team and Monster Media a/k/a Team Sponster. Whichever way you look at it, one less team is bad news. The obvious reason it’s bad news is that fewer teams means more strength among the teams that have stable squads and sponsorship. If you thought it was hard beating Surf City, try lining up against stacked Surf and stacked Monster.
But other things are swirling about, too. Michael’s interim replacement has indicated that SPY Optic won’t be the cycling-friendly company it has been for the last four and a half years. Sure, we’ll whine about the tourniquet being applied to all the cool stuff Michael so generously handed out, but there’s more to it than that.
SPY infused an amazing amount of enthusiasm and energy into SoCal cycling with Michael at the helm. Like any CEO he had his detractors, but I’ve never heard anyone dole out anything other than praise for his financial, time, and emotional commitments to bicycling. And those commitments were incredibly substantial, as Michael sponsored juniors, women, aspiring Cat 1’s, Cat 2’s living with their girlfriends, and legions of vain old men with too much money and too little sense.
At its zenith, SPY boasted a squad of 80 riders, a handful of whom were truly national caliber competitors, several handfuls of whom were state level competitors, and a whole bunch of posers and fakers like me who rarely raced but who flew the team colors with pride and who were visible and vocal proponents of competitive cycling. In addition to SPY’s own team/club, few people are aware of the degree to which Michael poured resources into other clubs, teams, and events, yet his encouragement gave a handful of truly talented racers the opportunity they needed to showcase their talent, get results, and turn pro.
From Udo Cross in honor of his good friend Udo Heinz, to sponsoring USAC at the national level, Michael willingly lent his logo to clubs and teams, offered great deals on world class eyewear that was innovative, stylish, and functional in the extreme, and did everything in his power to promote local events, including road, track, cyclocross, and MTB. If you were on two non-motorized wheels and were dedicated to it, Michael lent a sympathetic ear that was often backed with product, time, staff, and resources.
This grass roots approach was epitomized in his development of the Belgian Waffle Ride. “Most unique” or not, this 130-mile monumental beatdown over paved and unpaved roads became the high point for many people’s entire seasons, and the boneyard of dreams for many, many others. A celebration, a festival, a good old fashioned hard-ass bicycle ride that tipped its hat to the past while casting a hungry eye on the future of cycling marked everything that MIchael did at SPY. Thankfully, the BWR will survive his departure as a separately managed event under his new company, Creative Disruption, but it’s a loss to not have the full SPY corporate backing behind the event. Knowing Michael, the 2016 edition, which is already calendared for April 26, will be the best one yet.
As much as anything, local racing has been further hit by the departure of key staff at SPY who were hard core devotees of cycling. We may not have realized what a boon it was to have so many advocates within a company, advocates who showed up at races, who helped make events happen, and who worked social media to keep the world apprised of what was happening in SoCal cycling, but their absence is already felt. People like Phil Tinstman, Victor Sheldon, and John de Guzman, to name only three, were powerhouses on the bike and powerhouses in their corporate roles as well.
I can’t thank Michael enough for the support he gave me personally, and for the support he gave to pretty much anyone who asked for it. His impact on local cycling was huge and I, for one, am going to miss having him at the helm over at SPY. I have no doubt that his new business will boldly go where none has gone before, but in the meantime my hat’s off for the superlative work and the amazing contributions he made, contributions that have benefited every bike racer in Southern California, and thousands of others who’ve never pinned on a number.
I’m riding for a new team in 2016, but will proudly wear my SPY underwear costume until it reaches that Brad House level of threadbare when the rider behind is quite literally staring into the black hole of the abyss.
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September 22, 2015 § 22 Comments
The rider, Dan Funk, emailed me a copy of the citation and asked my professional opinion, and after the cursing finished I told him that it was a bogus ticket and that he should fight it. The problem is that he got the ticket riding on Angeles Crest and although he lives in West LA, the ticket was assigned to West Covina. This is like living in Manhattan and having to go to court in South Carolina, only the drive from Manhattan is faster and there’s less traffic.
The place where he was ticketed was absurd; there’s no shoulder and the only place you can ride is in the travel lane. In Dan’s case, he was actually trying to hug the fog line, and even then the cop pulled him over and ticketed him. “What’s this ticket for?” asked Dan.
“We’ve been ticketing motorists so we have to ticket some cyclists to balance it out,” advised the CHP cop.
You know, it’s the policy of equal enforcement, and I kind of like it, and wish they would apply it in other areas. “For every black person we arrest, we’re going to arrest a white person.”
“For every poor person we execute, we’re going to execute a rich one.”
It would bring some much needed change to our criminal justice system, and it’s a concept we could apply to other areas as well. “We’ve been giving out lots of tax breaks to big corporations, so we have to give tax breaks to ordinary people, too.”
Or what about this? “We’ve been letting abortion activists burn down clinics and shoot doctors, so we’re going to burn down some churches and shoot a few fundie pastors.”
There’s a lot to be said for equality.
Dan and I took the day off and met at West Covina. The courtroom filled with CHP cops. “This looks like a court where they show up,” I said. “Recognize any of these guys?”
“Nope. Mine was a motorcycle cop.” They were all in patrol car costumes.
Finally a very badass moto cop strutted in. “That him?” I asked.
Our case got called and dismissed, and we celebrated by getting to drive through eighteen more hours of traffic to get home.
Next time, under the principle of equality, I’m going to ask the judge if he’ll make a random CHP cop have to drive home in the back seat with me.
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September 21, 2015 § 17 Comments
I went out for a ride today with my new titanium pulley wheels, forged in the metalworks of Thorin Oakenshield’s factory deep underground, made lovingly with the hands of ancient dwarf craftsmen, and finished with miniature dragon eggs for bearings. Tres chic, tres trick. If you want to ride fast these days, you need dwarves, titanium, and dragon eggs.
Then after a bit the derailleur thingy wouldn’t shift right and made that clickety-clickety sound, so after descending Hawthorne and turning right onto PV Drive West I pulled over to try and adjust it by twirling the little spinner thingy on the derailleur cable. Holding the bike in the air with one hand and pedaling with the other was a pain and just then a guy whizzed by and gave me the ol’ cyclist throwaway line of, “You okay?” spoken, of course, at thirty.
As he disappeared from sight I screamed, “Are you any good with DERAILLEURS?”
He locked ’em up, burned off most of the tread on his rear tire and did a u-turn, but unlike Prez he checked to make sure no one was behind him. He rode up. “What’d you say?”
I was seated on the curb in my baggy pants, skate shoes, and t-shirt, going full Fred. “Are you any good at derailleurs? I can’t get this thing to shift right.”
“Nope,” he said, “but I can lift it up so you can use one hand to pedal and the other to twirl the thingy.”
I looked at him in awe. “I thought I was the only one who called it that.”
I twirled the thingy so that it got really awful, then I twirled it the other way so it got even more awful, and finally I was just twirling it to try and make it as bad as it had been when I stopped, which had been bad, but tolerably so, as opposed to now, when instead of going clickety-click it was going clackety-clack-donk, and the donk had me worried.
It also wouldn’t get up on the 25 when I was in the 53. “That’s a bad gear combo anyway,” Eric said. His name was Eric Eastland.
“It’s the principle of the thing,” I cursed.
We finally gave up and rode on together, with the clackety-clack-donk beating a terrible rhythm, like a dyslexic drummer or someone trying to run across the desert in Dune in irregular steps so as not to get eaten by a sand worm.
“You live here?” asked Eric.
“Not anymore. I live in Bend but I’m here every other week on business.”
“What kind of business is that?”
“Stages for large performances.”
“Wow. How large?”
“Oh, the big stuff. Rolling Stones, that kind of thing.”
“Well, we’re having a really tiny event on October 17 and we kind of need a stage.”
“Really? What kind of event?”
“It’s called the South Bay Cycling Awards but it’s much less classy than the name sounds. Cyclists and beer, mostly, and a big inflatable penis.”
“I have a mini stage that you might be able to use,” he said. Eric’s a big supporter of cycling, promotes events in Bend, and will do almost anything to assist the sport, even though it’s not really a sport. Before long we’d exchanged information and it was, well, awesome.
I rode over to Boozy P.’s to get the clackety-donk repaired. He threw it up on the stand for about thirty seconds and fiddled with some cables. The noise went away.
“Wow,” I said. “That was quick. What was wrong with the derailleur?”
“Nothing,” he said. “It was your brakes.”
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September 19, 2015 § 8 Comments
Rolling out of Redondo this morning I was talking to this dude. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Roberto,” he said, then he paused. “I pay you.”
I loves me a blog subscriber! Instead of insulting him as I’d planned, I patted him on the back, asked about his wife and children, and exchanged pleasantries. “Another day, another Donut, same old, same old.”
“No,” he said. “The rides, they are all different.”
“Yes,” he said. “You just have to do them enough to find out the differences.”
I tried to count how many times I’d done the Donut Ride. “After five hundred times, this still seems like a ride where one guy climbs up to the top faster than anyone else.”
“But it is a different guy, eh?”
“Yeah. Sometimes it’s Stathis, sometimes it’s Sakellariadis, sometimes it’s the Greek, sometimes it’s Wily, sometimes it’s Dr. Swerve.”
I looked around, but didn’t: the Greek was down for the count after slamming into the front of the guy behind him on the NPR. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Maybe this really will be different.”
Without Wily to attack from the gun and make everyone chase until they vomit and quit, it was leisurely. Hoofixerman scampered away with Roberto the German with the Spanish Name, then later Rico went, and eventually the pack started to chase. We all came back together at Terranea, but no one was tired.
An Airgas Safeway pro from from Santa Barbara had rolled out with us, and notice therof was duly taken. Surfer started surging in Portuguese Bend, and some new skinny kid from Norcal named Sean began taking digs, and Les Deux Frenchies began stretching the rope.
I cowered and hid, trying as best I could to tuck behind Jules. At age 16 he’s one of the top prospects in America, and recently added three more national track titles to his sagging trophy shelf. Jules began dropping pretty much everyone on the switchbacks when he was 13 and hasn’t let up since.
We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks with a massive pack of about thirty riders, testament to how slow it had been–this point of the ride rarely has more than ten riders in the lead group. The down side to a slow start is that once the climb starts, it goes very fast.
Surfer Dan ramped it up, and then the Airgas-Safeway pro hit the front. The group immediately snapped in half, and after a couple of minutes there were only eight riders left, Les Deux Frenchies, Derek, Surfer Dan, Norcal, Strava Junior, and Jules. We got to the top of the Switchbacks and Airgas was gassed; he hadn’t known that the ride continued up the wall to the radar domes. Course knowledge is key …
Surfer Dan took the bit and charged up the wall. We all hung on. Frenchy Sr. kept pulling through, but everyone else hunkered down and rubbed their rosary beads. For me this was all miraculous. Not being a climber, and not being very fast, and not being very smart, it was shocking to think that I’d survived so much misery so far with so much cruel, pitiless talent. Before I knew it, the final curve was in sight.
No chance at a sprunt.
No chance with an attack.
So I jumped, shook free, and eased off the gas, hoping to latch onto whomever came by.
As luck would have it, the bad kind, Jules rocketed up the right-hand gutter. I could have easily gotten his wheel if I’d been on a motorcycle. Otherwise, no bueno.
Frenchy Sr. and Derek came by, then caught and dropped Jules. I looked back and the broken pieces were strewn way out behind me. I crossed the imaginary finish line marking the end of the imaginary race, and thought about all the beer I hadn’t drunk in order to reach this imaginary level of success.
“Roberto was right,” I thought. “They are all different.” Followed by “Shit, I’m thirsty.”
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September 18, 2015 § 9 Comments
I’m pretty excited about the upcoming South Bay Cycling Awards, slated for October 17 at Strand Brewing Co.’s new facility, 2201 Dominguez Street in Torrance. In addition to having Steve Tilford as our guest speaker, and in addition to having four inductees into our newly built Hall of Fame (constructed entirely of zeroes and ones on land borrowed from Mark Zuckerberg), it’s going to be a rollicking good time.
There are already enough RSVP’s to make it a capacity crowd, so if you don’t get there when the doors open at 5:00 PM there’s a chance you’ll be turned away. Normally, putting together an event of this size–20 awardees, almost 70 finalists, fancy invitations, several hundred drunks–takes an incredible amount of time, hard work, and attention to detail.
Unfortunately, those are my exact three weaknesses, so as in years past we’ve just made shit up and hoped for the best. This year will be no different, although with an executive committee of highly questionable abilities, it could potentially be even sillier than it was last year, when the high point occurred at 2:00 AM after everyone had been kicked out of the bar and survivors were staggering through downtown Manhattan Beach with a giant, 6-foot, inflatable pink penis.
Did I say this would be a classy event?
No, I did not.
Still, as things come together in their sloppily drunken sort of half-crazed way, people have lurched into the breach to help make things happen. Whether it was Chris’s invitation assembly team, or Joe’s amazing t-shirt and poster design, people keep stepping up to help.
So it came as another happy surprise when Tony Manzella offered to print up a batch of the posters designed by Joe Yule, another example of people pitching in to make a fun community event even more so. Unfortunately, my lousy photos don’t do justice to the artwork or to Tony’s high-end production of the prints, but if you show up on Oct. 17 you’ll be able to see these beauties in person, and maybe even get one for yourself!
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September 17, 2015 § 44 Comments
Before bike video cameras and dumb phones and such, I used to practice memorizing license plates of passing cars. You never knew when some cager would buzz you or hit you and if you couldn’t identify the car the police wouldn’t do anything.
I always had a chip on my shoulder about law enforcement that didn’t care about cyclists, a chip that grew with each passing stop-sign-blowing citation. As a buddy mused the other day, and I agreed, “You know, I can’t work up outrage anymore at senseless cager killings.” He was referring to the gal who was looking for her mascara and swerved onto the shoulder, killing a cyclist, then overcorrecting into oncoming traffic and killing a motorcyclist.
Thankfully, though, she wasn’t charged or even taken in for questioning. Ventura County law enforcement is understanding like that.
My pal and I agreed that the constant stream of killings, buzzings, screamings, harassings, abusings, and throwings has made us numb. Another one bites the dust? That’s what you get for riding a bicycle, you were warned. Warned, for example, by entities like the Boston Globe, which ran a nice editorial about how bicycling is dangerous so get off the fuggin’ street.
Closer to home, The Daily Breeze champions the cause of repressed and downtrodden cagers in the South Bay.
On my afternoon pedal along PV Drive West today I heard the catcall behind me followed by the deep hum of fat tires. PV High School had just released its Adderall-addled spoiled children from their playpen, and what could be more fun than hauling your brand new Jeep Wrangler stuffed with two friends within a foot of a grumpy old fart and pelting him with a sandwich?
I swung over after forcing my middle finger back into position and dialed 911. The PVPD dispatcher took my information. “What kind of car was it?”
“2014 or 2015 Jeep Wrangler, black.”
“Did you get the license plate?”
“In fact I did. 7LBC437.”
She was kind of surprised. “And you’re on a bike?”
“I’ll send a car out. Stay there.”
“But … ”
So I stayed. The cops arrived, and one of them was the same officer who had pulled me over and ticketed me the month before. He smiled when he saw me. They took my statement and then their radios beeped. “Just a second,” said one. He listened, then looked up at me. “Well, we’ve apprehended them. Do you want to press charges?”
“We’ll need you to come make a field identification. They’re just up the road.”
“Great,” I said, but in reality I thought, “FUCKING AWESOME! THIS NEVER HAPPENS!”
Things soon got complicated, though. I had ID’d three boys, but in fact the driver was a boy and the thrower was a girl. They grilled me about whether I could identify her. “No,” I admitted. “I thought they were all guys. Plus, I was so busy not crashing and memorizing the license plate and model of the car … ”
The cops nodded sympathetically. Later, another cop came, this time the head supervisor. He was direct. “If he tried to hit you with his car it’s assault with a deadly weapon. You want to press charges?”
“Yes,” I said.
He was all business and had exactly zero sympathy for these rich little brats. “Okay. Let’s go do a field ID.”
“Just a sec,” I said. “I didn’t get hit. I don’t want these kids to go to jail.” I thought about my own youth, the felonies I’d committed, the people who had given me a second chance (or third, or fourth), and about how different my life would be if I’d started out life with a felony conviction.
“So you don’t think he intended to hit you?”
“If he’d intended to hit me I’d be dead now.”
“What was he doing, then?”
“He was trying to get close enough so that his girlfriend could whack me with some ham and mustard.”
“That sounds like reckless driving to me.”
“Officer,” I said, “maybe pressing charges and dragging this kid’s sorry ass through the courts will change him. But what I’d really rather have happen is that, while he’s in your custody, he comes to appreciate the seriousness of what he’s done.”
“The girls are in tears and he practically is, too. We’ve got him in our database and we’re making a report and will refer it to the city attorney, who can file charges if she wants to. I think he’s terrified.”
“I’d like to let it go, then.”
The officer nodded. “Okay.”
“And one other thing.”
“Your guys popped me for running a stop sign the other day and it always seems like you take bicycle stop sign violations more seriously than motorists trying to kill cyclists.”
“And your presence and actions today have convinced me I’m wrong. Thanks for chasing those kids down.”
“It’s our job.”
“I know,” I said. “And thank you for doing it.”
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